Vatican City, 3 September 2012 (VIS) —The Law of God, which finds complete fulfillment in love, provided the theme for Benedict XVI’s remarks before praying the Angelus today with faithful gathered in the inner courtyard of the Apostolic Palace at Castelgandolfo.

Commenting on today’s reading from the Gospel of St. Mark, in which the Pharisees reproach Jesus’ disciples for not following the norms of Mosaic Law, the Pope explained that God’s Law “is His Word, which guides mankind along the path of life, freeing them from the slavery of selfishness and introducing them into the ‘land’ of authentic freedom and life. It is for this reason that, in the Bible, the Law is not seen as a burden, … but as the Lord’s most precious gift, … (an expression of) His desire to remain alongside His people, and to be their Ally”.

Yet when the people settle in the Promised Land and become the depositories of the Law, they are tempted “to place their safety and their happiness in something which is no longer the Word of the Lord: in material goods and in power, other ‘divinities’ which are, in fact, empty and futile idols. Of course, the Law of God remains, but it is no longer so important, no longer the rule of life; rather it becomes a facade, a covering, while life follows other paths, other rules, often selfish individual and group interests. In this way religion loses its authentic meaning … and is reduced to a secondary habit which satisfies the need human beings have to feel they have done right before God.”

“This is a serious risk in every religion, one which Jesus encountered in His own time, and unfortunately it can also arise in Christianity. Thus Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel against the Scribes and Pharisees must make us think. Jesus repeats the words of Isaiah: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrine’. … In his Letter, the Apostle James also warns against the danger of false religiosity,” the Holy Father concluded.

After praying the Angelus, Benedict XVI greeted, among others, a group of pilgrims from Lebanon, expressing his delight at the prospect of his forthcoming visit to that country.